As renovation ends, north entrance to Flossmoor Metra station reopening

A newly planted flower bed on Dixie Highway in
downtown Homewood.
(Photo by Marilyn Thomas/
HF Chronicle)

Homewood’s getting spruced up for summer. 

Walk downtown and you’ll notice the knockout cherry rose geraniums, and the heat elite peppermint vinca, the saffron superbells petunias and the two-tone variegated ‘Maculata’ vinca vine in planters and pots.

Homewood Beautification
Committee member Karen
Wahlers at work recently 
planting large pots for 
display in town.
(Photo by 
Marilyn Thomas/HF Chronicle)

It’s all thanks to the helping hands of Beautification Committee members Sue Tomlinson, Maureen Kelly, Lisa Kadisak, Pam VanNiel, Diana Grayson, Becky Herkert, Arla Blocker, Cate Roberts, Karen Wahlers and Annie McLaughlin.

Let me be the first to admit that I’m no gardener. My husband takes care of the yard and does most of the planting.  He’s an outdoors person.  I can’t take the sun or mosquitos; I find things to do indoors.

So when I was asked to serve as an ex-officio member of Homewood’s Beautification Committee I said ‘sure’ but was rather unsure of what I’d gotten myself in to.

Arla Blocker gets a downtown
planter ready.
(Photo by 
Marilyn Thomas/HF Chronicle)

I went to the first meeting in January and didn’t say a word. I was rather intimidated by this group of friends that came together in the dead of winter to plot what will go in Homewood’s public flower beds and special flower pots in the business district. 

These ladies sat and discussed plants that I’d never heard of—often using the Latin names!  

They used laptops and phones for Internet browsing so they could look at pictures of plants before they made their decisions. They checked records from previous years to make certain they ruled out the disappointments and instead ordered hardier plants or flowers with great color. (For example, I learned last year’s geraniums were a bit too stringy for their liking.)

Lisa Kadisak, left, and Pam
VanNiel teamed up to get a
downtown planter ready. 

(Photo by Marilyn Thomas/
HF Chronicle)

They planned for particular flowers for hanging baskets that would work best in three zones: Zone A along Harwood (hot, dry conditions and full sun), Zone B on Ridge Road (part sun/part shade with good conditions) and Zone C on Dixie Highway (everything from shade to blasting sun). 

Then there are the giant pots at the Metra Station on Harwood and at the intersection of 183rd Street and Harwood, as well as the viaduct planters, and the Central Business District’s 26 sidewalk pots and additional in-ground planters.

I found there was much to learn about things that I’ve always admired. You can’t drive or walk through downtown Homewood and not see the flowers.  They give our business area full of brick and mortar, concrete sidewalks and cars a feel-good impression. The bursts of color can cheer anyone up! 

When committee members were out last week filling the downtown planters, passers-by had complimentary things to say about how beautiful the flowers are. 

Yes, people do notice. That’s important to the committee members.

As they work, they talk about their children and grandchildren, upcoming vacations or trips that they’d already enjoyed, and what they’ve planted in their own gardens (a few are still leery about planting impatiens after the 2011 Impatiens Downey Mildew fungus scare. We’ll see how my impatiens turn out this year.)

Many in this group have been serving together for 14 years. When I showed up at the Public Works garage, I came with my hand shovel and work gloves. That was all I needed. They welcomed me. 

We got to work planting 26 pots for downtown with red spike, sky blue petunias, royal velvet supertunias, saffron superbells petunias and vinca vine. A few days later, we were out in downtown filling the in-sidewalk planters and the giant pots. 

The volunteers work under the direction of Annie McLaughlin, the committee chair, who everyone turns to with questions. You can ask her pretty much anything about plants. She’s got the insights and knowledge to help you.  

I’d be remiss if I didn’t give special thanks to the crew at the Department of Public Works. Director John Schaefer attends the committee’s meetings and takes the working lists so he can get all the plants and baskets ordered. He was at the garage at 7 p.m. the night we worked on the pots.  His staff then took them to downtown and dropped them in the correct locations. Brian Doerr and Aaron Meyer, two 

arborists/maintenance staff, helped out when we did the planters.

Next up, the Beautification Committee will be working on the annual beautification awards for homeowners’ outstanding gardens.  And, once the summer season is over, they decide on holiday decorations for those giant planters.

It’s the cycle of life for Homewood’s special gardeners.

This story originally listed Lisa Syren as a member of the committee. She is the administrative assistant for Homewood Public Works.

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